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  • Amelia's teacher asked her to watch seven eggs this weekend. Seven eggs due to hatch today.

    Three weeks ago, Kat agreed to this arrangement. I learned about it a bit later. Since then, my internet history has been increasingly peppered with terms like "chicken coops" and "backyard chickens"

    I first met the eggs at open house, on Thursday night, when Isabel won the grand prize in the school science fair for her project "PLANTS VS. DETERGENT." She knew that she had won the top prize for the fifth grade. Grand Prize, though, was unexpected. Paul announced it in front of all of the school's students and parents, who were gathered in the Multi-Purpose Room for the pre-event announcements. She was quite proud. Her friends were prouder. We were proudest.

    But back to the eggs. There they were, warm in their incubator in Amelia's first grade classroom, nothing yet but chicken possibility. They sat in a ring around a little dish of water in the center of the machine plugged into the wall. I imagined them little campers around a campfire, telling stories of the pre-life.

    I could have sworn one of them jumped when I looked at it. I didn't tell anyone I had seen this, just in case. I learned, thereafter, that this was not unusual. In the two and a half days since, I have grown quite accustomed to seeing eggs jump and crack and do all manner of things.

    A few moments later, with other parents and students milling about Amelia's classroom, I whispered to her teacher conspiratorially, "I have a secret."

    "Yes?"

    "Amelia is really excited about babysitting these eggs. I'm probably more excited."

    I discussed this later with Kat, and we determined that, no doubt, this was strange behavior on my part. Very well, though. I have a defense; I was chicken-crazed.

    Sunday afternoon, and three of those eggs are now chicks. Two Orpingtons and a Polish. So far.

    I was commissioned this morning to go get a red brooding light. I drove to Animal Farm, hoping, but was half-OK with going to San Leandro, if I had to.

    I was wandering about looking for chickenstuff. (They either had it, or they didn't, I thought.)

    An Animal Farm denizen approached and asked, "Can I help you find something?"

    "D'you have chickenstuff? We just got chickens, and I need a light to keep 'em warm."

    "How 'bout this?" He handed me a lizard lamp.

    Red bulb. Check. "This will actually work perfectly. Thank you."

    I came home and decided to start cleaning up the backyard, clearing out overgrowth along the fence. I know that's where a chicken coop would go, if we ever had one. Not that it matters.

    It's two in the afternoon now, and everyone else is still in pajamas. They've been watching eggs and chicks. It's tough work to run a chicken nursery.

    The girls have named several of them.

    The two in the cage have names: Puffy Chicky Puffer Polish (Chicky for short) and Puffin (was originally Cheaps2, then Penguin and Pengu, before becoming Puffin). The one hatched in the incubator is not yet named. At least one of the remaining eggs is named Cheaps1. Beyond this, I am not initiated in the Ways of Chicken Naming.

    They hold their hands together, as if in prayer, now and say, "Please can we hold them. Please, please, please!"

    These chicks and these eggs or, rather, what is in these eggs go back to the classroom on Tuesday.

    And then, less than two weeks later, school is out.

    There's been scattered discussion about where the chickens might end up for the summer. A lot of discussion. Not a lot of decision.

    We were asked to watch eggs. But it sure feels like we just got chickens.
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